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Chinese President Xi Jinping took a veiled swipe at the U.S. in a strongly worded speech, saying no country should “be allowed to do whatever it likes and be the hegemon, bully or boss of the world.”
Pushing for developing countries to have a greater role in world affairs, Xi said the United Nations could be “more balanced” and called for the “international order underpinned by international law,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing remarks made at a meeting commemorating the world body’s 75th anniversary. He said countries must not be “lorded over by those who wave a strong fist at others.”
“There must be no practice of exceptionalism or double standards,” Xi said. “Nor should international law be distorted and used as a pretext to undermine other countries’ legitimate rights and interests or world peace and stability.”
Xi is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly via video link later Tuesday. U.S. President Donald Trump is also among world leaders expected to address the annual summit in New York.
Xi’s appeal for a multilateral revival was echoed by leaders from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as concern grows about the stability of global institutions set up after the devastation of World War Two.
China has sought to cast itself as a champion of a world order shaken by Trump’s decisions to withdraw from the World Health Organization, the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.
While Xi didn’t mention any country by name, his remarks come as the Trump administration hits China with sanctions for human rights abuses and labels WeChat and Huawei Technologies Co. security threats. Trump said last month that “American exceptionalism” should be taught in schools, as he tried to contrast himself with Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who has promised to return the U.S. to a less confrontational foreign policy.
China faces a challenge in trying to fill the void on the global stage, as it’s accused of flouting international norms by asserting territorial claims in the South China Sea, enacting a national security law in Hong Kong and detaining ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang.
China has also faced accusations of bullying for using coercive trade policies in geopolitical disputes against countries from Australia to Sweden.